Monday, February 28, 2011

Photographing Birds: Digital Ethics

This Red-shouldered hawk was photographed in the Florida panhandle at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.  This windy, foggy and drizzly day was hardly ideal for digital photography. The photo above is the unphotoshoped original.  The image below is the photo I produced, and included a step or two that I did not mention in my last four blog entries.

Note the twig that originally protruded from the stump behind the hawk.  I thought the twig interfered with the photo's composition.  I erased it.  Was my erasure ethical?  This edit probably bothers nobody.  But digital photography allows you to change backgrounds, add birds that were not originally in the photograph, and place birds that were not in the original habitat or location.  These later actions probably will appear unethical to most observers.  Drawing the line between erasing an occasional offending stick, a secondary bird in the background, or moving a bird to a whole new location is up to the the individual photographer.  Certainly a difference exists between improving the quality and substantively changing the reality of a photograph. Explanation of major changes in images should probably accompany doctored photos.

1 comment:

  1. Dan,
    I absolutely agree! I minimally erase twigs and water spots on the windos, etc. I crop out distractions if I can, but otherwise it is what it is. I think it makes me compose more carefully when I take the picture, trying to see those things and recompose if I can.
    Thanks for the series you've posted, I enjoyed it and learned some things.

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